It began with the forging of the Magic Circle and White Shoe firms

Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have finally merged. The new firm is called A&O Shearman* (although the official long-winded name that no-one will use is ‘Allen Overy Shearman Sterling’).  

It's almost a year since the firms announced their intention to merge. The deal received the green light in October, following an overwhelming partner vote giving it the thumbs up, at each firm.

A&O has succeeded where plenty of other UK firms have failed in snagging a New York White Shoe firm. Ashurst aborted attempts to hook up with Sidley Austin, Fried Frank, and Latham & Watkins (not all at once), before finding love with Australian firm Blake Dawson, while Freshfields and Debevoise wooed each other many moons ago, only for things to go cold.

Other UK firms which have pulled off transatlantic couplings include Lovells with Hogan & Hartson (in a sweeter parallel universe its nickname is LoveHart not Hoglove), Norton Rose Fulbright with Chadbourne & Parke, Eversheds with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, DLA with Piper Rudnick, BLP with Bryan Cave, and Bond Dickinson with Womble Carlyle. But none are on the same scale as A&O Shearman. 

Prior to the prestigious hook-up, both firms had gazed at other suitors across the pond. Shearman had engaged in merger talks with Hogan Lovells, which failed. A&O suffered a setback in 2019 when merger plans with O'Melveny & Myers flopped after 18 months of discussions, which apparently left a bitter taste for the US firm. 

The deal has satisfied Allen & Overy’s ambition to obtain a high-grade US presence, as the Magic Circle had been looking for a large US merger "for at least 10 years,” a leading figure in the sector told RollOnFriday, when the merger was first announced.

While Shearman was a top outfit over the years, it was indisputably the weaker partner coming to the table, said the source, as it had “lost a lot of good people”.  When the firm signalled its distress, A&O was in like a shot.

A potential stumbling block had concerned Shearman having "significant pension liabilities attached to partners in the US, who enjoyed gold-plated pensions”, another source had told RollOnFriday, during the talks. But the two firms came to an agreement on the size of the pension liability that the combined firm would take on from Shearman’s scheme, RollOnFriday understands.

The A&O Shearman merged beast of a firm comprises of around 7,000 people, and nearly 4,000 lawyers, including 800 partners. The firm will operate across 47 offices in 29 countries, and boast a whopping $3.5 billion, approximately, in revenues.

In the RollOnFriday Best Law firm's To Work At, Shearman's lawyers in the UK have been more satisfied than A&O lawyers in recent years, so it remains to be seen how the new firm will manage to blend the cultures.    

The merger comes at a time when top US firms are taking everyone's lunch money in the City, and luring NQs and juniors away with astronomical salaries. One major US firm is rumoured to have thrown around $150m at its London office to bolster its presence, and is raiding other top firms for their lawyers.

Co-chair of the global board, Adam Hakki (previously of Shearman), said the combination "has been carefully designed to deliver – at the highest level – what the firms’ respective clients and colleagues have told us they are seeking and will find nowhere else." 

Also extolling the new firm's virtues, managing partner Hervé Ekué (previously of A&O) commented: "I know of no other firm in the world that can combine our market coverage, depth of experience, and innovative approach."

Wrapping up the self back-slapping, senior partner Khalid Garousha (previously of A&O), said "we begin an exciting journey as a new firm" which will be "a new industry leader with unmatched experience, a unique culture and truly global capabilities." 

*Saatchi even got involved.

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Anon 03 May 24 10:04

Let's be honest, People will use A&O Shearman for 6 months - but by the end of year it will just be A&O.

Anonymous 03 May 24 10:04

Their email address has 10 letters, 80% of which are Shearman, so it's clear who won in this merger. 

Anonymous 03 May 24 10:24

There's theme song is blitzkrieg pop by The Ramones except that let's go is replaced by Shearman.

Hehe I'm a dork

Ex A&O, Ex Shearman 03 May 24 10:50

The merger gives A&O strong capabilities in the US, which have been missing for some time. However, even with those capabilities, can the combined entity really compete with the likes of Kirklands, Skaddens, Cravath, Sullivans, Wachtell, Paul Weiss, Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Quin Emanuel, Lathams? 

Effectively, the combined firm will be magic circle in London, but in the US it will be a mid-market firm. It will not get the most sought-after mandates, especially the more lucrative/complex matters from Fortune 500 companies or from private equity. This will reflect on the compensation the firm can offer partners in the US. It certainly won't be anywhere near what the US top 10 pay. 

Anonymous 03 May 24 11:07

"It will not get the most sought-after mandates, especially the more lucrative/complex matters from Fortune 500 companies" 

lol you have absolutely no clue what kind of cases and deals Sherman and Sterling was working on premerger. 

Anonymous 03 May 24 16:47

I left both of them in ignominy.


These days I can only get work in the NHS - and not as a lawyer.

Cyclical 03 May 24 16:59

SS management brought about their own demise by concentrating on heavily cyclical practices. 
They pushed out non- or even anti-cyclical practices a few years ago. SS used to be world leader in international arbitration - no more. 
Then when the cyclical practices tanked (with the economy), they lost their independence. 

Dechert watch out. Your management is currently making the same mistake 

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